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littleBitty Joe


Published on April 23, 2014

Say Hello to littleBitty Joe! Joe is our school's mascot! Speak to Joe and watch his eyebrows lift, whiskers vibrate, eyes illuminate, heart spin and hear him ROAR! Not only does his roaring effect work with our project, but it can definitely work with yours too! Your project could talk, scream, or say just about anything! 

Credits: Chattanooga State Community College Adafruit Industries Arduino Community Calvin Robinson Daniel Craig Earl Epps Briana Gray Morgan Catlin Mary Knaff Joe Helseth Mary Earl

How To Make It


Let's begin with building the circuit: power+ sound trigger + branch. Add (1) vibration motor to each arm of the branch, which will be used for whiskers. Connect (2) wire bits and add them to the head of the branch. Attach the second wire bit to the second half of the circuit: long LED + long LED + servo + bright LED. For now, the bright LED bit can be placed to the side, as it will be used later through the tutorial. Lastly, set the servo to swing-mode.

Note: This tutorial may possibly take more than one day to complete, due to the drying time of the tiger's head.
Additionally, If you want to use only the details of the connection between the Arduino/audio waveshield to the littleBits, please skip to steps 7, 8, & 9. This tutorial is only the instructions on how to build the head of the tiger. The tutorials for the body can be viewed at


Secondly, let's mount the circuit to two separate rectangular pieces of cardboard. The dimensions of each piece of the cardboard should be close to 2'' x 4''. It is best to tape each bit link together with scotch tape to avoid disconnection. Use two strips of scotch tape to mount the first half of the circuit to the cardboard, excluding the wire bits. Apply the same process to the second half of the circuit, excluding the wire bit; the wire bits should be free of mount. Lastly, test the circuit to ensure it's functionality.


Before we begin to build the head of the tiger, let's 3-D print a few cool items. We used the MakerBot Replicator 2 to print the eyeballs, teeth, and claws. In this tutorial we will only use the eyeballs and teeth printouts. Download the .thing files and upload them to a MakerBot. This process may take a few hours, so check the status of the items frequently. If you don't have access to a 3-D printer, ping pong balls can be used for eyeballs and the teeth can be made from white play-doe.


Now, let's begin the assembly of the tiger's head. Use the styrofoam mannequin head as the support of the frame. Starting from the back of the mannequin, wrap the chicken wire around the head to form a one layer frame; cut the excess chicken wire using the wire clippers and tape the frame together with masking tape. The chicken wire should circle around the mannequin with at least 2 inches of space between the mannequin and the frame on each of the head. Since the height of the chicken wire is over two feet, you can cut and bend the wire to form a dome shape as top of the head. First, cut the chicken wire around 6" down the back of the head, fold the back sides inwards towards the middle, cut the sides, and overlap the front of the head backwards towards the middle of the mannequin. Now, use 8 strips of masking tape to tape to secure the wire down. Each strip should intersect at the center of the dome and continue it's path to the bottom of the frame. The main section is complete.


Next, is the nose and mouth section. Cut a length of 22" of chicken wire and fold it into an arch. Curve 2" of the bottom of both sides of the arch towards the inside of the arch at a 45 degree angle. Tape this section of the mouth as the top portion of the mouth to the main section of the head. Complete this process for the bottom of the mouth, but tape it to the main section at a 315 degree angle instead. Tape four strips of masking tape to the top portion of the mouth, starting from the main section of the head to the opening of the mouth. Complete the same process for the lower section of the mouth. If you don't like the shape of the head, add folded pages of newspaper to create the form you want and use masking tape to secure the newspaper. It is recommended to add more newspaper to the joint of the main section and the top of the mouth. Additionally, on the top of the dome.


We have made it to the sticky step of the tutorial; it's time to form the skin of the tiger! Ensure that there is enough tape on the head for the newspaper & paste to stick to. First, we need to create a paper mache paste with newspaper + flour + water + mixing bowl + spoon. Mix 1 part water with 1 part flour in the mixing bowl and tear 3" x 7" strips of newspaper; also keep some bigger sheets as well. Work on a dry cloth inside or work outside, this will be a very sticky step. Dip a newspaper strip in the paste and start to shape the head from the top of the dome. Cover one layer of newspaper, one strip at a time on the entire head. Be sure to shape the section where the main section of the head and the mouth section joins. Allow the head to dry. Once dried, add another layer to the head and allow the head to dry again. On the third layer, fold larger strips of newspaper together to form ears. Allow to dry. Complete this layer process two more times. This step may take a few hours so feel free to rest. Once the head is completely dry, move to the next step.


Note: You may need parental advisory during this step.

In this step we will design a voltage divider circuit: bright LED + 4.7k ohm resistor + 330 ohm resistor + photodiode + jumper wires (red, black, yellow) + electrical tape + solder + soldering iron. First, twist the leads of the two resistors together and twist a black jumper wire to the second lead of the 330 ohm resistor. Next, twist a yellow jumper wire to the other lead of the 4.7k resistor (both leads should face the same direction). Twist the combined leads of the yellow wire and the 4.7k resistor to one of the photodiode leads. Next, twist a red wire to the second lead of the photodiode. After all of the necessary leads are twisted, pull out your soldering iron & start soldering! Solder each of the twisted leads together. After each lead is soldered, secure the soldered joints with electrical tape. In the next step, you will need: bright LED + electrical tape + photodiode. Take the photodiode and place the face of it onto the LED of the bright LED; ensure that it is placed directly on the LED. Lastly, use electrical tape to secure the photodiode in place. View pictures 4, 5, & 6. 


Let's start programming. In this step, you'll need: computer with Arduino Uno IDE software + Arduino Uno + Adafruit Audio wave shield + SD Card + the programming cable. Place the wave shield on top of the arduino and load the arduino program on the computer. Download the arduino code file and download it to the IDE programmer. Make sure the programmer is connected to the correct communications port. Upload the code to the arduino and waveshield. Once the code is uploaded, remove the arduino from the computer. Now, download the tiger-roar2.wav file to the SD card. You can use this process to upload different sounds and audio to the SD card for other projects. If you want to use specific audio saved in different formats ( .mp3 .mp4 etc.), be sure to convert these files to the .wav format. Download and extract the file to the SD card. You have officially programmed an arduino and wave shield!


We will now combine the littlebits circuit with the arduino circuit. In this step you will need: voltage divider circuit + Arduino & Adafruit Audio wave shield + Solder + Soldering Iron. We will solder the jumper wire leads to the 5 Volt pin (red wire), GND pin (black wire), and the digital input/output pin (yellow wire). Ensure that the face of the photodiode is still in direct contact with the LED of the bright LED bit; this is the main link between the littlebits and arduino. The bright light from the bright LED bit lowers the resistance of the photodiode, which allows voltage flow through the signal wire (yellow) to trigger the arduino & waveshield. More light activates the circuit, less light deactivates the circuit. To test the combined circuit, connect the arduino to a 9 Volt battery supply, connect the wave shield to the speakers, power up the littleBits, and snap your finger in front of the sound trigger to activate the arduino. Immediately after the snap, there should be a loud "roar". If nothing happened, check the volume level of the wave shield, ensure that the face of the photodiode is in direct contact with the LED, check for cold solder joints in the voltage divider circuit, ensure the file on the SD Card is in a .wav format, or reprogram the arduino. Additionally, you may need to add electrical tape to the metal casing of the A/B type USB port on the arduino; this may cause a shortage in the waveshield.


Since the voice is finished, let's check back on the tiger's head. If the head is dry, it is time to fabricate it. You will need: scissors + hot glue gun + glue sticks + tiger striped fabric + white "fuzzy" fabric + black fabric + red fabric + pipecleaners + fish line. First, drape the tiger fabric on the head and measure the amount of fabric you will need. Measure the fabric towards the opening of the mouth and cut an opening to accomodate the opening of the mouth. Make sure there is enough fabric to fit over the ears. Now it's time to start gluing the fabric to the head. Start at the dome towards the back of the head and glue the fabric. The more wrinkles in the fabric, the more realistic the tiger looks. Glue the rest of the faric to the head and cut accordingly. Let's move to the mouth and ears using the white fabric. Cut & size the fabric to seperate pieces; top section of the mouth, bottom section of the mouth, & inside the ears. Glue the pieces to the face and ears. Look at pictures 14-19 for better details. Now let's give the tiger a nose by gluing a folded piece of black fabric to the nose. After the nose, we'll move to the inside of the tiger's mouth. Use a 10" x 10" black strip of fabric; this will work as a "basket" for the first half of the circuit. Cut a small slit in the middle of the wire bit through the inside of the mouth to the main section of the head. Glue the fabric to the curved portion of inside of the mouth. We now have a basket while creating the image of a dark mouth, as well.


You have finally made it to the final steps of the project; mounting the littleBits and arduino. First, cut a 1/2" x 1" hole through the fabric and hardened paper mache in the middle of the forehead to mount the servo. Use scissors to poke two holes into the face of the tiger to feed the (2) Long LEDs through, as eyeballs. The holes can be the same size of the holes in the 3-D printed eyeballs. Glue each eyeball over the two LED holes on the head. The long LEDs will be the pupils of the eyes. Using the wire clippers, cut a hole big enough to feed the wire bit through the mouth to connect to the first littleBits circuit. Cut a 3" by 3" strip of cardboard to mount the arduino/waveshield. Use a zip tie to mount the arduino to the cardboard. Mount the second half of the circuit on the inside of the forehead in between the long LEDs and the servo hole with zip ties. Feed the servo throuh the servo hole and mount directly on the forehead. Using zip ties, mount the arduino next to the second half of the circuit to keep a connection with the bright LED bit. Refer to pictrues 7-9 for more a better description. Take two pipecleaners and twist them together to form the shape of an eyebrow. Using a pin, mount the eyebrow to the head. The pin will serve as a pivot point for the eyebrow to lift up and down. Connect the eyebrow & the servo arm using fishing line or thead. It needs to be tight enough to allow enough lift from the servo arm. Complete the same process for the second eyebrow. Next, fold the red fabric to the shape of a tongue and glue the flaps down. Add the teeth using the double-sided tape. Last, but not least are the whiskers. With masking tape, tape 3 pipecleaners to each vibration motor & secure them to the sides of the mouth with white fabric. Refer to pictures 14-17 for further details of this step.


Congratulations! You have officially finished the project! Power the circuits up and give it a snap! Change the sensitivity of the sound trigger to your preference. Remember, the arduino/waveshield circuit could be used with other projects you create! If you want to build the body of the tiger, go to Happy Innovating!

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